I think every married couple (including us), whether it has been for a year or for decades would agree that there are particular topics and subjects that they avoid talking about. I mean, they will if they must, but they tend to avoid these areas as if they are elephants in the room. We avoid these elephants because we are under the false assumption that our marriage will be stronger if we do. That by avoiding, it will lead to less conflict. And maybe it does lead to less conflict in the short-term or for that day, but that short-term ‘benefit’ does not outweigh the long-term cost of avoidance. By continually choosing a plan of avoidance, we rob ourselves of the joy and beauty it is to be really known in marriage. To be really known and loved by another, in the same way we are known and loved by Christ. Simply put, avoidance of conflict robs the relationship of opportunities to grow deeper in intimacy and will stunt the growth of any marriage.
There are a multitude of conversations that marriages tend to avoid. You probably already have a few coming to your mind. I pray that you and I will take action this week to step into those conversations with great humility and grace, and a desire to be quick to listen and slow to speak.
In my mind, here are four big conversations that we can tend to avoid in marriage.
If you’ve been married or are married, you’ve probably disagreed about money at some point. We have before. Conflict over money is a major reason for divorce. One person is usually a spender, and one is a saver, and that equals conflict if you don’t talk about it. But if you talk about it and get on a budget, which is basically an agreed upon plan by both of you on how you’ll spend your money, conflict can be navigated well. Notice, I said, navigated, not avoided. The point in a Christ-centered marriage is not to avoid conflict, but to navigate it in a loving manner when it comes up.
The elephant of money won’t go away by avoiding it. Practically speaking, spend one month tracking expenses. Then, together, work up a draft of a budget and see how it rolls the second month and adjust as necessary. And through all of it and moving forward, don’t stop talking. Budgets are never as clean or pretty as we’d like them to be. Things come up that throw wrenches into spreadsheets and plans. So this is why you need to set a regular and consistent time to talk money. Together, commit yourselves afresh in prayer that your desire is to handle money in a God honoring way, and ask the Lord to give you His wisdom and unity as you move forward.
How are you going to spend your time? Much like money, time is limited. It is a precious resource, and we would be wise to handle it well.
No matter if you have kids or not, or how long you’ve been married, you need to communicate about time and schedules. Heather and I put every appointment, game, meeting, or event on an electronic, shared calendar, so there are no surprises. We have stuff on the calendar, weeks in advance so as to try and avoid the dreaded double-booking. We will often talk on Sunday nights to get a game plan of the week ahead. It helps us know when we will all actually be home, and how to manage the comings and the goings.
As a couple, it would do your marriage good to also intentionally plan time for one another. When is your next date, outside the home, planned? Is there a lunch hour this week that you can share? What do you need to say NO to, in order to say YES to one another? Don’t just give your marriage the leftovers of time. Be intentional, be wise, and draw boundaries where they are needed.
I’ve talked to many couples who would confess Christ as Lord, who are active in the fellowship and life of a church, and yet are hesitant to talk about matters of faith at home. Primarily, I’ve spoken to a lot of couples who are hesitant to pray out loud with one another. We are tempted to compartmentalize prayer and allow it to only show up before meals, or on a Sunday morning, or with kids before bedtime. But for us, we’ve found that praying out loud with and for one another has been a powerful relationship builder. I still remember times of me confessing sin in prayer out loud, next to my wife, holding her hand. Talk about an intimacy builder!
In prayer, we are vulnerable not only before the Lord, but one another. We don’t always get this right. For example, I’ve had times where I’ve fallen asleep in bed in the midst of my own prayer, let alone hers…must’ve been a long day. So for 20+ years of marriage, we haven’t always nailed this one. A Christ centered marriage is not about perfection though. And yet it is about Spirit empowered, truth transforming, grace driven progress. So may we not settle for just the normal routine of prayer in our homes. Let’s push prayer from being just a part of our day, to a way of life and an undercurrent to our day. May we pray out loud with and for one another, as we hold hands, laying our requests before the Lord in expectation.
God created sex to be enjoyed in the context of a husband and wife covenant marriage. He is the designer not only of marriage, but sex. Now ever since Genesis 3, we see the fact that our sin has distorted and twisted our view and understanding of God’s gift of sex. As one pastor has said, we now are tempted to either see sex as gross or our god. We see sex as either just for the procreation of human life, or we have made an idol out of it. Those extremes of gross and god, are often the result of something in our past that has shaped that view. Whether it be our upbringing, abuse we’ve experienced, pornography that we’ve consumed, or lies we’ve believed in culture or from the church.
But as we look at God’s design, we see that His intent was not for sex to be gross or our god. Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. If you read the Song of Solomon, you see that romantic love and physical intimacy are part of God’s design for a marriage. The Creator wants you to enjoy all aspects of your marriage, including sex.
Husband and wife, if you don’t talk about the subject of sex, you’re flying blind. Men, your wife know more about what they need and want than anything online or from the guys at work. You’re married to the expert! Talk to the expert. Ladies, your husband know more about what they need and want than what media or your friends are telling you. You’re married to the expert! Talk to the expert. As married couples, we must stop assuming and just talk to each other. The relationship between honesty and intimacy are directly related to one another.